Brief #2 - okładka

The hypocrisy of corporations and the plastic from our clothes

It’s in the corporations’ interest to blame the individuals for climate change and make them concerned about combating it. As reported in the investigation by the US National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service, oil and gas companies that produce plastic were never truly engaged in a real effort to recycle it but rather interested in good PR. Research from Changing Markets Foundation found that big polluters, like Coca-Cola, voluntarily promised to act on solving the plastic trash problem but at the same time were lobbying against regulations that would force them to recycle. Probably only 9% of plastic ever made was recycled.

The UK’s Marine Conservation Society will be trying to assess the environmental impact from the personal protective equipment – masks and gloves – used during the pandemic. It is going to use thousands of volunteers during this year’s Great British Beach Cleaning – an annual weeklong initiative that takes place in September.

The scientists from the University of California estimate that just by washing our clothes we have released into the environment around 5.6 million tonnes of plastic fiber since the 1950s. Half of this ended up in rivers and seas and a similar amount is a result of human activity just in the last decade. The increased plastic pollution from clothes comes from growing wardrobes. In 1990 we owned on average 8 kg of clothes, while in 2016 it was already 26 kg per person, globally.

Tire wear produces around 500 000 tonnes of tire particles annually in Europe alone. Globally it is estimated to account for almost half of road transport particulate emissions. Recently the group of masters studies from Imperial College London called The Tyre Collective created a prototype of a device that captures 60% of all particles from the vehicle’s tires. Their work was granted the James Dyson Award for student designing engineers.

Interests and relations between Russia, China, the USA, and the European Union

Russia is looking for closer relations with China as a counterbalance for threats from foreign powers like the USA. Russia’s authorities regularly express concern over the American defense systems establishing a global missile shield in the countries along its borders in both Europe and Asia. Russia incites race divisions in the US with fake news in traditional and social media to influence the results of the presidential election in November. State-sponsored hackers organize attacks on political parties, consultants, and other election-related entities in the USA.

China is involved in a series of disputes with the US concerning the influence over the South China Sea, trade, and human rights issues while America seeks to drive out the Chinese investment in Europe. European Union works to remove the asymmetry in the economic and trade relations while insisting on China’s government to apply to human rights standards. Beijing wants to tighten economic relations but fails to open its market at a pace expected by the European representatives.

The EU does not intend to choose sides in the rivalry between the US and China. It lies in its interest to shape its own policies in relation to Beijing and other Asian countries interested in access to European technology and markets. Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore have signed free trade agreements with Brussels, while India is seeking closer cooperation on maritime and cybersecurity as well as counterterrorism.

Castration in Nigeria and the research on government’s misconduct

A recent study found that the government’s misconduct causes 54% of wrongful criminal convictions in the United States. Police officers were involved in 34% of cases and the prosecutors in 30%, with the misconduct of both in some situations. Officials are rarely disciplined for their actions. The study relies on five types of misconduct: witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, fabricating evidence, concealing exculpatory evidence, and misconduct at the trial.

Castration and capital punishment for the convicted of rape of a child under the age of 14 were introduced in Kaduna, Nigeria’s north-western state. The sentence for raping a person over age 14 is also castration, followed by life imprisonment under the new legislation. During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of rapes in Nigeria grew rapidly, and women’s groups called for the harsher penalties for the perpetrators.

Unicef has called on the Nigerian authorities to review an Islamic court’s decision to convict a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for blasphemy. The reason for the harsh sentence was improper thoughts he voiced during an argument with a friend. Kano state, where the situation took place, applies the Sharia legal system alongside the country’s secular laws.

Drivers in the UK who cause death by speeding, as a result of racing or using a mobile phone or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may now face life imprisonment. The new law also lowers the minimal defendant’s age for the life sentence to be applied to 18.

The City Commission of Opa-locka, Florida is to repeal the ban on baggy pants that reveal the underwear. The regulation came to life in 2007. Another commission meeting is needed to effectively overturn it.

The new solar cycle and “star wars”

According to NASA, the Sun has just entered another of the 11-years long cycle. Highly connected to the space weather, solar cycles are the periods of the changing activity of the Sun. We experienced a solar minimum in 2019, and we should expect that our star’s activity will be rising until 2025. Even though the new cycle will most probably be below average, it still means the giant explosions on the Sun’s surface – coronal mass ejections and flares as well as higher space radioactivity. It can affect astronauts in space, radio communications on Earth, and the weather. There are even past research papers that postulate the correlation between solar cycles and social perturbations like revolutions and wars.

Free and uninterrupted access to space may soon be over. The Commander of the Royal Air Force has warned that it is becoming a new frontier in the global rivalry. The militarization of space comes as a result of the global ambitions of the countries and the lack of effective international regulations. Recently the UK and the US accused Russia of putting an anti-satellite weapon in space. Last year both countries partnered up to create common capabilities of space warfare. Then there’s the problem of over 900 000 pieces of floating trash, mostly remains of inactive hardware.

With scientists from NASA finding the first planet ever orbiting a white dwarf, it may be that the death of a star doesn’t have to mean the annihilation of surrounding celestial bodies as previously thought. WD 1856 b was found with the help of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Spitzer Space Telescope. It’s massive and remains in a near orbit to its star. Until now scientists believed that in the process of becoming a white dwarf, the star destroys everything in its vicinity. Now they think the newly discovered planet could be pulled in from even 50 times further orbit but wasn’t damaged in the process. It’s a breakthrough but not necessarily good news for Earth-sized planets. We haven’t yet found a similar scale object to survive the death of its star

Australian stinging trees and scientists using shotguns to collect samples

The remaining of Europe’s ancient biodiverse forests need immediate protection. Primary forests constitute only 4% of woods in the continent. According to scientists, most of the European primary forests are in Scandinavia, Finland, and Eastern Europe. Still, local governments often are not aware of their value and do not offer proper protection.

The researchers from Black Rock Forest are using shotguns to collect the leaves from the crowns of high trees. They shoot down the branches which then fall to the ground – ready to be sampled. The scientists study how the trees adapt to climate change and the growing average air temperature. Trees’ communities are “migrating” –moving seeds are growing better in certain places, and so the species change their range. Leaf analysis allows comparing their metabolic activity.

Australian giant stinging trees (Dendrocnide excelsa) grow up to 40 meters high and their leaves are covered with needle-like hair. A sting by one of them causes an intense pain that may last for days. Researchers who examined the toxin that the leaves contain say it latches onto pain-detecting cells of the recipient, locking the afflicted area. Its molecular structure resembles a knot allowing the venom to tangle and repeatedly target pain receptors. The toxin is similar to those used by spiders, scorpions, and cone snails to incapacitate their victims.

Wikipedia tourists and possible end to the Hollywood blockbusters

With the “Tenet” film’s tough run in cinemas, we may observe the end of the high budget blockbusters era. After the first weeks from release, box office predictions for Christopher Nolan’s film are lower than expected. Even if it ends up grossing high on the current estimate ($300 million globally), it will still make a loss. A problem that soon will face many expensive productions currently held from release. The COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions hit especially cinemas, and the studios need to rethink the way movies are made. Among options is scaling down the budgets or cooperating with the streaming platforms – at least for the time of the pandemic. The dilemma in the industry will last at least until the effective vaccine is introduced.

Economists from German and Italian universities proved that even a slight expansion of Wikipedia articles on small cities may result in a significant rise in visitors and revenue from tourism. The research was made on Spanish towns with French, Dutch, Italian, and German versions of the Internet encyclopedia. It showed that two written paragraphs and one photo could boost bookings by 9% during the high season. Especially for those cities that don’t have much of an internet footprint, simple edits in articles had the potential of raising the tourist traffic by one third. According to the researchers, such minor additions could mean about 130 000 USD extra revenue yearly from tourism for the destination. Though the commercial editing ban on Wikipedia means that the wannabe visitor’s havens may not have a direct path to tourism success yet.

Difficult times for restaurants in the US are not over, and the elections may only compound the problem. Nearly one-sixth (or 100 000) restaurants in the country are closed down. If the situation does not improve, 43% of the owners expect to close their businesses within six months. Now the anxiety over political issues may make people even less interested in going out for food. Past data shows that restaurant sales growth slows down before elections.